Do you really need a custom brace?
For an athlete who has suffered an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear, the solution is usually to get a knee brace following surgery. Other athletes use them for various reasons - stability, prevention of injury or during recovery from injury. However the dilemma usually lies in whether to go to the store and buy one off the shelves or have it custom made. Most people tend to believe that a custom-made brace, costing thousands of dollars, must be better than a store-bought one. The answer? Not always.
Apart from the cost of most custom braces, there is the inconvenience of making several trips to the orthotists who has to first make a mold of the knee, then fashion the brace to suit your knee. After that you may have to go back a couple times for adjustments. If your time and money are limited, this can be a turn-off. But those are not the only disadvantages of custom braces. Researchers have found that many custom braces do not fit any better than standard types. Some studies show that the custom-made braces did not stabilize the ACL any better than did the store-bought type. Another study showed that after one hour of use, the custom-fitted brace came loose.
With today's modern technology, engineers are able to generate computer models of the human knee in motion and design braces to suit almost every type of knee. Studies have shown that these braces can and do provide effective support for the knee as well as the custom braces. However, in the case of children or adults with deformities, nerve damage or other similar conditions, a custom brace may be best. However, in any case you should consult your physical therapist first, rather than making such decisions yourself, and learn how to properly fit and use them.
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